Tuesday, July 28, 2009

One Woman's Treasure...

[what's brewing: I thought this would be "hot"]

This past weekend we were invited to a birthday celebration for one of the women in our church. She has been a good friend to us this year and I felt honored to be invited to share in her birthday with her kids and grandkids. While Jason was out for the morning, I was in charge of purchasing a gift for the party. Jason isn’t too fond of me going to the markets alone, so I conceded and went to the only department store in town.

I wandered around for ages, wondering what would be an appropriate gift, what would be interesting, what would be useful… I considered a wide variety of items when I finally settled on what I thought would be a great gift: a glass bowl with a set of floating candles to go in it. I was shocked to find floating candles here, as good candles in general are hard to come by. Yes, this would be a great gift, particularly for a woman who loved to entertain as much as our friend does.

By the time Jason arrived to pick me up for the party, I had wrapped the gift and added a bottle of soda to offer as well. Upon arriving at the party we were seated in the living room to wait as the rest of the family finished the food preparations. I am always a bit baffled by the decorating styles here, which I know is a cultural thing; yet as we sat there, I marveled at the true appreciation here for things like porcelain figurines, bright colors, exaggerated features and gaudy designs.

We enjoyed a long afternoon of food and laughter with our friends before it was time to open the gifts. Our friend started by opening the gift from her 4 year old granddaughter – a colored picture and a small bag of chips. Then a gift her neighbor had brought over – a ceramic mug covered with birthday wishes, painted in many different colors. The next gift: another mug, this one with a picture of a purple cat on it. These gifts were very well received and certainly fit with the décor of the house, but I was excited to see the response to the centerpiece I’d chosen that morning. I knew she would love it.

As our gift was unwrapped, there was a lot of silence as she tried to piece together what it was. A glass bowl and a package of candles? I started to explain she could put water in the bowl and then put the candles in, but failed to come up with the word for “float.” Jason jumped in to help me, yet even with his accurate explanation, everyone at the table was still puzzled. I got up with excitement and asked if I could show her what we meant; so I filled the bowl with water as Jason unwrapped the candles. We dropped them in and voila, floating candles!

But even with this demonstration, we only saw looks of confusion around the table – or perhaps they were looks of doubt as to my taste in gifts or decorations. Our friend thanked us, but with the same kind of “thanks” that I mustered when I was given a pink t-shirt with a big teddy bear on it when I turned seventeen. Her daughters smiled, moved the bowl to the shelf behind the table and handed her the next gift – a ceramic dog figurine, which was received with excitement and genuine thanks.

I was baffled – what’s not to love about floating candles? How could there be so much genuine excitement over a ceramic dog figurine and such confusion over the purpose of a centerpiece with floating candles? I would have loved to have those floating candles in my own home, which then led me to wonder what they think of the décor in our home.

Do they think I have bad taste?!

As Jason and I drove home from the party, he confessed that though he thought my gift would have been great for a friend back in the US, he had been doubtful that the ladies here would understand the concept or appeal of a floating candle centerpiece. He had hoped for the best and after a total crash landing, he helped me to see the humor in the experience. By the time we were home, we were both rolling with laughter over the baffled looks as I jumped from the table and proudly demonstrated how the floating candles were meant to be used, only to be followed with true delight over the ceramic puppy figurine.

Apparently just as one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, so one woman’s treasure is another woman’s trash!


Grammy said...

great story! I would have liked it.

Greetings from Guatemala said...

I love floating candles!! ha enjoyed reading your story.

Becky Aguirre said...

Great story! Would have been interesting to be a 'fly on the wall' after you left to hear their take on things...lol! :)

Tim and Susan said...

That IS funny...I guess that is to show though...Once an American, Always an American.

Hey, it was the thought that counts and buying gifts for others IS tricky...especially in another country!!


Christen Morrow said...

Love the story... living here in Peru I too am often baffled by the decor and am at times given things that.... are another woman's treasure! Thanks for sharing. Wish I could bring you some floating candles!

prairierose said...

A great story--glad your husband was able to help you put it into perspective. I can identify with you!


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